Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can take shape in the form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, economic deprivation, or any other manipulate behaviors committed to keep power or sustain control over the other romantic partner. Although women are commonly known to be the victims of domestic violence, males are also reported to be victims as well. Both victims and perpetrators can be male or female.

Domestic abuse can occur in serious romantic relationships, marriages, or short-term commitments, although abusive relationships may last longer than short-term affairs because the victim may struggle to get out of the abusive relationship. The occurrence of domestic violence tends to be repetitive, and commonly follow a cycle of abuse that is similar to the following:

  1. The tension-building stage: Stress accumulates between the couple, and the abuser’s behaviors may begin escalating, resulting in passive aggression, name calling, physical eruptions of anger, or other violent behaviors.
  2. Abuse stage: The perpetrator commits an act of abuse which can be physical, emotional, sexual, or any other act of extreme controlling behavior.
  3. Reconciliation stage: The abuser apologizes and promises to never do it again and the victim forgives and minimizes the abusive behavior.
  4. Calm stage: The couple seems to reconcile and the relationship seems peaceful, but the offender withholds violent acts until stress begins to build up and the cycle is reinstated.

The physical effects of domestic violence can range in severity, but often include:

  • Bruises
  • Lacerations/cuts
  • Broken bones
  • Internal or external bleeding
  • Head injuries
  • Chronic pelvic pain or abdominal pains
  • Frequent vaginal infections or UTIs
  • STIs
  • Heart issues or hypertension.

The emotional effects of domestic violence include:

  • PTSD from repeated violence
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks and nightmares

Victims feel pressured to stay, either from fear, economical reasons, or other emotions. The following are reasons victims struggle to leave abusive relationships:

  • Poor/damaged self-esteem caused by the abusive relationship or history of abuse relationships
  • Feelings of danger or fear of safety for oneself or children involved
  • Having hope that the partner will change
  • Guilt for being in the wrong for leaving their partner
  • Lingering feelings of love or loyalty
  • Feeling personally responsible for their partner’s behavior
  • Difficulty separating shared finances

Regardless of fear, feelings of regret, fear of being alone, or other factors that may influence one to stay in an abusive relationship, it is imperative to realize that these things factors are not definite or true. Your wellbeing is more important and should be prioritized at all times. If you or a loved one are struggling with domestic violence, do not prolong reaching out for help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or refer to our directory of qualified MFTs to get professional help.

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Donna J. Shanahan M.A.

Donna J. Shanahan, MA

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist 
Pasadena, CA 91101

I am a Marriage and Family therapist in private practice. I work with individuals, couples, and families in short and long-term psychotherapy. We work together to explore memories of the relational dynamics of the individual’s family, the feelings those dynamics created for the individual as a child, and how the individual now relates to those feelings and memories.

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